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New Data and Updated Report Show Medicaid Is Expanding Insurance Coverage, with Major Benefits to States’ Citizens and Economies

June 8, 2015 Comments off

New Data and Updated Report Show Medicaid Is Expanding Insurance Coverage, with Major Benefits to States’ Citizens and Economies
Source: White House

The Affordable Care Act has dramatically expanded access to health insurance coverage. Since the law’s major coverage provisions took effect at the end of 2014, the Nation has seen the sharpest reduction in the uninsured rate since the decade following the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, and the Nation’s uninsured rate is now at its lowest level ever. Combining these recent gains with earlier gains due to the law’s provision allowing young adults to remain on a parent’s plan until age 26, more than 16 million Americans had gained health insurance coverage as of early 2015.

One important way the Affordable Care Act is expanding coverage is by providing generous financial support to States that elect to expand their Medicaid programs to cover all adults with incomes below 138 percent of the Federal poverty level. New data released this morning show that the number of people with coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has risen by 12.2 million people from the start of the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act through March 2015. From February to March alone, the number of people with Medicaid or CHIP coverage rose by more than 500,000 people.

Opportunity for All: Fighting Rural Child Poverty

May 26, 2015 Comments off

Opportunity for All: Fighting Rural Child Poverty (PDF)
Source: White House

Small towns and rural communities are home to millions of Americans, are a vibrant part of our nation’s economy, and include some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. Rural America provides the vast majority of food, energy, and environmental benefits for the rest of the country, is the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources, and is home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs. Despite this critical role in our nation’s economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation’s economic growth. In 2013, 6.2 million Americans in rural areas lived in poverty, including about 1.5 million children.1 Moreover, in far too many of these communities, high rates of poverty have persisted for generations: over 300 rural counties have had poverty rates of over 20 percent in every Census since 1980.

While the fight to eliminate poverty is far from over, the 2014 Economic Report of the President documented that federal programs designed to reduce poverty and promote opportunity have cut poverty by more than one-third over the past 50 years. This report also shows that poverty in rural areas fell by nearly half between 1967 and 2012, compared to about one-quarter in urban areas.

All the President’s Psychologists

April 30, 2015 Comments off

All the President’s Psychologists (PDF)

Lead authors:
Stephen Soldz, Ph.D.
Nathaniel Raymond
Steven Reisner, Ph.D.

Co­authors:
Scott A. Allen, M.D. 
Isaac L. Baker
Allen S. Keller, M.D.

Reviewer:
Jean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D.

This report analyzes emails from the accounts of deceased RAND Corporation researcher and apparent CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) contractor Mr. Scott Gerwehr.1 Sixteen emails were selected for detailed analysis from a larger collection of 638 emails that were obtained by Mr. James Risen, author of Pay Any Price and a reporter for the New York Times. The emails were provided to the authors for analysis with the approval of the original sources of the emails, and with the agreement that only those selected as most relevant to the scope of the report would be released. All 638 emails were reviewed by the authors.

No findings of this report were in any way contradicted by the emails not included. The time frame of the emails analyzed in this report spans 2003 to 2006. (See more on methods and sources of data in Appendix I.) This report also includes publicly available information obtained from a variety of sources including the American Psychological Association’s website, released government documents, and reports in the media

Emails were selected for detailed analysis because they are evidence of the George W. Bush Administration’s integral role in shaping American Psychological Association (APA) ethics policy on psychologist participation in national security interrogations after September 11, 2001. Other emails were chosen because they either conflict with or contradict past public statements made by APA officials, as well as disclose new information related to this issue that the APA appears to have concealed. (See Appendix II for all primary source emails cited in this report.)

Based on analysis of the Gerwehr emails and reference to related open source documents, the authors note five key findings related to the APA:

1. The APA secretly coordinated with officials from the CIA, White House, and the Department of Defense to create an APA ethics policy on national security interrogations that comported with then­classified legal guidance authorizing the CIA torture program.

2. A US government research scientist, who had recently served as President Bush’s behavioral science advisor, is reported to have secretly drafted “language related to research” inserted by APA officials into the 2005 APA ethics policy on interrogations. While the exact language of the alleged contribution is not known, the section on research aligned that policy with the then­-classified Bradbury “torture memos.” The Bradbury memos directed health professionals to research and assess the supposed safety, efficacy, and health impacts of the “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The memos were introduced at a time when CIA Office of Medical Services (OMS) personnel were protesting the expanded involvement of health professionals in helping determine the legality of the techniques.

3. The APA had numerous contacts with CIA contract psychologists Drs. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen starting in at least 2003, including contacts related to interrogation techniques; at least one senior APA official was informed of their clandestine role at the CIA related to interrogations; yet APA has consistently denied such contacts.

4. APA did not disclose Dr. James Mitchell’s past APA membership when it released its 2007 statement in response to journalists’ revelations regarding Mitchell’s role in abusive interrogations. Nor did APA include such information in its letter to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in 2010; APA staff sought to obscure past contacts with the CIA and with Mitchell and Jessen and their firm, Mitchell Jessen and Associates.

5. Despite substantial contact between the APA, the White House and CIA officials, including the over 600 emails noted in this report, there is no evidence that any APA official expressed concern over mounting reports of psychologist involvement in detainee abuse during four years of direct email communications with senior members of the US intelligence community.

See: American Psychological Association Bolstered C.I.A. Torture Program, Report Says (New York Times)

The Economics of Early Childhood Investments

April 7, 2015 Comments off

The Economics of Early Childhood Investments (PDF)
Source: Council of Economic Advisers

Early childhood, beginning in infancy, is a period of profound advances in reasoning, language acquisition, and problem solving, and importantly, a child’s environment can dramatically influence the degree and pace of these advances. By supporting development when children are very young, early childhood development and education programs can complement parental investments and produce large benefits to children, parents, and society.

An analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers describes the economic returns to investments in childhood development and early education. Some of these benefits, such as increases in parental earnings and employment, are realized immediately, while other benefits, such as greater educational attainment and earnings, are realized later when children reach adulthood. In total, the existing research suggests expanding early learning initiatives would provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent, about half of which comes from increased earnings for children when they grow up.

Big Data and Differential Pricing

April 7, 2015 Comments off

Big Data and Differential Pricing (PDF)
Source: Council of Economic Advisers

Big data refers to the ability to gather large volumes of data, often from multiple sources, and with it produce new kinds of observations, measurements and predictions. Commercial applications of big data deserve ongoing scrutiny given the speed at which both the technology and business practices are evolving. One of the many questions raised by big data is whether companies will use the information they harvest to more effectively charge different prices to different customers, a practice that economists call price discrimination. Economics suggests that many forms of differential pricing, such as senior citizen discounts at the box office or tiered pricing for air travel, can be good for both businesses and consumers. However, the combination of differential pricing and big data raises concerns that some consumers can be made worse off, and have very little knowledge why. This report finds that many companies already use big data for targeted marketing, and some are experimenting with personalized pricing, though examples of personalized pricing remain fairly limited. While substantive concerns about differential pricing in the age of big data remain, many of them can be addressed by enforcing existing antidiscrimination, privacy, and consumer protection laws. In addition, providing consumers with increased transparency into how companies use and trade their data would promote more competition and better informed consumer choice.

White House — The Student Aid Bill of Rights: Enhancing Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

March 11, 2015 Comments off

The Student Aid Bill of Rights: Enhancing Protections for Student Loan Borrowers
Source: White House

President Obama has proposed a new Student Aid Bill of Rights that outlines a series of new actions that direct the Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council, working with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Social Security Administration, to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans.

Working together, the Obama administration will:

  • Develop a state-of-the-art – and simple – process for borrowers to file complaints involving their federal student aid, and working with a team across the federal government to figure out the best way to address those complaints.
  • Make sure the banks that service federal loans are held to high standards and provide better information to borrowers; and raising the bar for debt collection to make sure that fees charged to borrowers are reasonable and that collectors are fair, transparent, and help borrowers get back on track.
  • Use innovative strategies to improve borrowers’ experience and improve customer service. At the Department of Education, we are committed to finding new and better ways to communicate with student loan borrowers and to creating a centralized, easier process for repaying loans. And we will see what changes to regulations and legislation, including bankruptcy law, may be necessary to protect borrowers – regardless of the type of loan they have.
  • Work across the federal government to see what lessons can be learned from similar situations, like mortgage and credit card markets and other performance-based contracts, to help us make sure that ultimately, we are continually strengthening consumer protections for students.

The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings

February 24, 2015 Comments off

The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings (PDF)
Source: Council of Economic Advisors
From blog post (Whitehouse.gov):

Americans’ retirement income is derived from many sources, including Social Security, traditional pensions, employer-based retirement savings plans such as 401(k)s, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). While this landscape is familiar today, it reflects a dramatic change from the landscape 40 years ago. The share of working Americans covered by traditional pension plans—which offer a guaranteed income stream in retirement—has fallen sharply. Today, most workers participating in a retirement plan at work are covered by a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). Importantly, the income available in retirement from a defined contribution plan depends on both the amount initially saved and the return on those savings. The shift from traditional pensions to defined contribution plans raises important policy issues about investment responsibilities and the roles of individual households, employers, and investment advisers in ensuring the retirement security of Americans.

Defined contribution plans and IRAs are intricately linked, as the overwhelming majority of money flowing into IRAs comes from rollovers from an employer-based retirement plan, not direct IRA contributions. Collectively, more than 40 million American families have savings of more than $7 trillion in IRAs. More than 75 million families have an employer-based retirement plan, own an IRA, or both. Rollovers to IRAs exceeded $300 billion in 2012 and are expected to increase steadily in the coming years. The decision whether to roll over one’s assets into an IRA can be confusing and the set of financial products that can be held in an IRA is vast, including savings accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, individual stocks and bonds, and annuities. Selecting and managing IRA investments can be a challenging and time-consuming task, frequently one of the most complex financial decisions in a person’s life, and many Americans turn to professional advisers for assistance. However, financial advisers are often compensated through fees and commissions that depend on their clients’ actions. Such fee structures generate acute conflicts of interest: the best recommendation for the saver may not be the best recommendation for the adviser’s bottom line.

CEA’s new report The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings examines the evidence on the cost of conflicted investment advice and its effects on Americans’ retirement savings, focusing on IRAs. Investment losses due to conflicted advice result from the incentives conflicted payments generate for financial advisers to steer savers into products or investment strategies that provide larger payments to the adviser but are not necessarily the best choice for the saver.

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